MTA unveils solution for debris falling from elevated tracks

HUNTS POINT, Bronx (WABC) -- If it feels like the sky has been falling for the MTA, that is because in a way it has.

Eight times this year alone, debris has fallen from elevated subway tracks, from chunks of metal and pieces of concrete to wooden planks spearing through windshields.

And some of these incidents have been very scary. In some cases, people came just inches from very serious injury.

On Friday, MTA officials unveiled how they have chosen to deal with the falling debris.

The plan centers on the wire baskets under elevated subway tracks made to catch and hold loose debris, which means no need to stop traffic below when work needs to be done.

"If it falls out before we get there, it's easier, the lifts are higher and it won't vibrate out," said Terri Rumph, the new MTA New York City Transit chief track officer. "Also the best thing about this, you can actually install this from top side."

The transit agency is also deploying new management to focus on this issue.

MTA Chief Track Officer Terri Rumph unveiled new designs for the baskets and new designs for fastenings that have been now been installed over 60 miles of elevated track -- there will soon be more netting installed and 325,000 of these new baskets added throughout the system.

That Herculean task took place over the last eight days and is now complete.

The MTA says it cannot guarantee there won't be more falling debris. 2.4 million pieces of equipment can come loose over time.

But MTA President Andrew Byford said the agency can guarantee this:
"We are doing are our damnedest to stop these incidents from happening. This is not a new phenomenon. These elevated structures have been up a long time, and it has been a challenge for decades to stop debris from falling from elevated structures. We're basically fighting gravity."

Byford added that the rate of falling debris has not increased, but the recent incidents have been especially high profile.

He said there is money in the budget to net the entire system if need be.
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